I read a book: The Librarian and the Orc (Orc Sworn #3), by Finley Fenn

It’s taken me a minute to finish this book. I’m not sure I’m into this series anymore. I really wanted to like this one because the heroine is a librarian and the orc is a scholar named John. Yeah, there are orc scholars and yes some of them have human names. If you consider the fact that these orcs need human women to procreate, it’s a wonder that a larger percentage of them don’t have human names.

So let’s start with our heroine, a young librarian named Rosa who is given the task of reading all she can about orcs and digging up some dirt that will be scandalous enough to spark a peasant rebellion. The nobles don’t want to spend money on a war, so they plot to find a way to make the peasants do all the dirty work without the expectation of a paycheck or supplies. Shortly after receiving this assignment from her creeper of a patron, she encounters an orc named John reading in the back of the library. Because of the peace treaty negotiated in the first book, John has that right and Rosa really shouldn’t ask him to leave, but she does so anyway. They come to a compromise and he is allowed to take his studies to a private room.

Of course that is not the end of it and Rosa continues to push the issue. She sees this as an opportunity to get some insider information, so she turns her negotiation to a more personal nature and offers herself up to John in exchange for information. They come to an agreement that involves some library sex and a field trip to Orc Mountain in which John vows to keep her safe and answer all her questions. The reader knows Rosa is acting as a spy and John’s motivation is unclear, though if what we know about orcs is any indication, he probably wants a mate to bear his sons.

There is a lot that I liked about this book. The relationships between orcs is expanded upon. Because they have no females and gaining the trust of human women is difficult, many orcs choose to take pleasure with one another. In the previous books, the dynamic was more like they were biding their time until they found human women to mate with. But in this book, we learn that some just prefer other orcs and take each other as their life mates. This is all very strange to each of the women we’ve met so far (I guess there are no homosexual humans?) and they are shocked to learn that their orcs have partaken in pleasure with other orcs. We get to witness healing (and sex) between one such couple, a side story that almost overshadows the main story. I know Tristan and Salvi worked things out, but I would have loved for them to have their own book. I also loved the way Rosa solved the Lord Kaspar problem and avoided the war she was assigned to start.

And then there are things that aren’t working for me anymore. The heroine gets so wrapped up in the idea that she’s been lied to when the entire purpose of her visit is a giant lie. The only thing she manages to be real about is the BDSM theme. At first she is scandalized and talks about how shameful it is to want to be afraid and want to be conquered etc. John helps her come to terms with herself and accept her truth. Cool. BDSM isn’t my thing and I am most definitely not the submissive type, so that part of the book didn’t speak to me (or titillate me). Every time she cried and ran off into the dark because she felt he’d lied to her, I rolled my eyes and sighed. Girl, everything about you is a lie. And somehow John and the orcs have known all along and forgive her and welcome her into their clan because she’s redeemed herself with her actions. There’s this big emphasis on how John’s clan does not speak vows because words can be broken and how one should be judged on their actions instead. Which, I guess. I guess I’ve just grown weary of the miscommunication trope. Why doesn’t Jule take aside all the new women and tell them that orcs don’t communicate the way humans do and you can’t expect them to understand if you don’t tell them. And at some point, maybe the women should start teaching unmated orcs how to talk to human women so they can avoid all the bullshit in the first place. I could do without all the cum guzzling though. Seriously, so many mentions of orc seed and Rosa’s amazing deep throating skill. Buckets and buckets of thick white seed. The spicy scenes are not doing it for me at all. And I find myself taken out of the moment anytime modern conversational language is slipped in with the anachronistic language used throughout. It’s a little jarring when you have orcs using words and phrases like naught and I shall and you wished but also phrases like macking on.

Still, this was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. Tristan and Salvi, and Simon to an extent, saved this one. The relationship between Tristan and Salvi was a shining spot in this story. The way Simon listened and learned from them and agreed to talk to his clan to work toward mending clan relations was really nice to read. And I do love a story where the heroine finds her spine (and herself) and ends up saving the day and gets the happily ever after she truly wants. Rosa and John grow individually and as a couple and when it was over, I found myself rooting for them.

That said, I think I’m going to take a break from the orcs. I did check out the next volume from KU, but it’s not a priority. I guess I’m still chasing that Ruby Dixon vibe that’s missing from my monster romance now that I’ve caught up on her entire catalog.

I read a book: Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and didn’t get around to it until long after it had been published. So I was reading the e-arc and completely engrossed because the idea of someone who can tell the future when he binge eats is such an interesting and unique plot. When I became aware of the up to 85% off everything Audible sale, naturally I looked for this book and bought it.

I’m a terrible reviewer, I know. But in my defense, I try to write honest and thoughtful reviews and I end up buying the audio companions to the ones I loved. This is one such book.

As I often do, I listened to the audiobook as I read along. Quick note about the audiobook, this is my first experience with the narrator T.W. Robbert. His reading is crisp and clear and while not overly emotive, it is just enough to accentuate this story perfectly. His vocal shifts between characters is enough to differentiate them but not so dramatic that it’s annoying. I know a lot of readers love full cast audiobooks or those whose narrators do elaborate voices, but I just find that distracting. T.W. Robbert has a talent that I can appreciate.

This is the story of an anorexic man who discovers future seeing abilities aided by bulimia, binge eating and purging. Eat to see, see to live. The story is told from the points of view of alternating narrators, one in the moment and one as an interview at an institution. We meet Casey Banks and Lylian Ayer (Spanish for yesterday…intentional?) in the middle of a reading. Casey is stuffing his face with fervor, trying to cram more and more because he believes that the more he eats, the more he will see. We learn that Casey and Lylian do readings from time to time to make money. Eventually, the criminal element (who happens to be Lyl’s ex) gets word of his ability and compels him to work for them, to read for them. As expected, things get complicated and weird and I’m here for it.

If descriptions of body dysmorphia and eating disorders are triggers for you, maybe skip this one. I have no experience with either and can’t say if the descriptions are super realistic, but I found this book to be overall well written. The imagery is top notch. I read a lot of extreme horror. Descriptions of blood and gore barely phase me but some of the descriptions of eating and purging scenes are both beautiful and disgusting. As I read, I found myself appreciating the interview sections more and more. I loved getting to dig in Casey’s head. And this is a minor thing, but I appreciate the little Texas references scattered throughout. A quick look at Peter Rosch’s Goodreads profile shows that this is his first novel in a while. I hope it won’t be his last.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. The story is original and engaging and layered with surprising depth. There are twists and turns throughout that make this one difficult to put down. If you can stomach the eating scenes, you should read this book.

Big thanks to Peter Rosch, Art Cult Books, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch on Amazon or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Go on now, read it!

An ode to Ozzy

When they call your name, bettеr run and hide

So Ozzy has a new album called Patient Number 9 out.

Apparently there was some kind of hubbub over his performance at a football game not being aired in full. Ozzy’s YouTube channel posted the full video and it’s just great. The man is 73 years old and still cranking out awesome music and performing his heart out. So what if he’s moving a little slower or lip syncs some of it. He’s out there doing the thing he knows best and putting on a hell of a show for the fans.

I gotta say, the titular song is fire. It is a haunting earworm, exactly what we expect of the Prince of Darkness, and the music video is spot on as well. Pandora has been pimping this album hard. One of the new songs came on my classic rock station while I was out with my parents. They’re not really metalheads, but they’re cool with Ozzy. I remember pointing out that this was new music and Mom saying that it sounds just like his old stuff. I may have gushed a little, telling them about Ozzy’s age and Parkinson’s and how he’s still putting himself out there. Ozzy’s career has been impressive and he just keeps going.

I tried listening to this a week ago when I was newly enthralled with the newest Megadeth album and couldn’t get into it. Now that I’ve put a little space between the two and focus on this one, I find myself really loving it. This album features several guest guitarists, each song seemingly tailored to the guitarist’s strength. One of my favorite guests is Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready on Immortal. Filthy grungy riffs from an unexpected collaborator. It’s so good.

I suppose this is less of an ode and more random gushing of an aging metal chick. Anyway, don’t write off new albums by old beloved musicians. Sometimes they’re really good. Give this one a chance. And when you do, take note of the guest guitarist for each song. You’ll hear what I’m talking about.

I read a book: Like Me, by Hayley Phelan

So let me tell you about this book. But first, let me share a tangentially related tidbit from my life.

The other day, I was munching on some blueberries and came across probably the biggest blueberry I’d ever seen. I actually chose this pint because it had unusually large blueberries compared to the others on the display. I snapped a couple pictures of it and shared them with a friend in messenger, whose response encouraged me to do the thing I felt was probably silly and post it for everyone to see. My big ass blueberry made it to my Instagram and FB and I spent the next half hour looking every time I got a comment or a like. And I thought about this book.

You say you’re a model, it’s evident you’ve never met
A mirror you didn’t love (ooh la la)
You say you’re an angel with your halo and your crown
As you fly up to the sun and melt your wings
It’s not a want, it’s an obsession
You wanna hear the people screaming out your name
Whispers at night in your midnight confessions
You’ll do anything for fame, célebutante, célebutante

At the beginning of this month, Megadeth released a new album. One of the catchier tunes is called Celebutante, which felt like a theme song for this book. Every time I hear this song, I think about Mickey and Gemma and this review that I’m finally getting around to writing. I think about these young women and their melted wings.

Like Me, by Hayley Phelan follows the journey of Mickey, a 19 year old aspiring model as she navigates her way to what she considers success. Her career is pretty much stalled and she is getting desperate to get her moment in the spotlight. We get a glimpse of her superficial friendships and lifestyle choices concerning men and excess. We see her carefully composing her social media posts and then comparing herself to popular Instagram model Gemma. She is obsessed with Gemma to the point that she memorizes her photos and tracks her activities. She knows where to find her at any time of any day. She talks about Gemma as if she knows her and eventually her friends call out her obsession, but in a teasing sort of way. It took a bit for anything to really start happening. According to my notes, it took me until around 36% to be fully invested.

At this point I was speculating different paths this story could take. I felt the tension rising as Mickey got deeper into her Gemma fixation. At first, it just seemed like an innocent celebrity crush thing. But will it become more? Mickey seems the type who could easily go full on stalker. I found myself hoping that would happen. The clues continue to point in that direction. One day she runs into Gemma and her photographer boyfriend in public. It is painted as a chance meeting, but is it really? Anyway, the boyfriend comments on the near familial resemblance between Mickey and Gemma and everything starts to spiral from there.

The day the boyfriend calls Mickey to do a photo shoot is the beginning of the end of life as she knows it. He is a major creep, but like many young girls who are desperate to break into modeling, Mickey leans hard into his creepiness. You’ll do anything for fame, célebutante. His photos prove to be wildly popular, and Mickey is still comparing herself to Gemma and seeking validation by means of a like or follow or anything.

So Gemma goes missing and it’s like Mickey is the only one who notices? Are they actually the same person and this whole story is one of them going through the motions and imagining that they’re watching it happen to someone else? There’s the scene where Mickey is talking to her friends and she keeps mentioning Gemma but they ask her who Gemma is. And the way Benoit and his crew look around awkwardly when she mentions Gemma. Feeling like this whole story is Mickey’s spiraling mental health.

Taken from my notes in Book Lovers Cafe

Solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Lots to unpack. I found it to be quite relevant to today’s social media focused world and highly relatable, even to those of us who just want people to look at our big ass blueberries. I will say this, if you have access to the audiobook, I highly recommend it. Perfectly cast narrator who effectively portrays the main character’s deteriorating mental health throughout the book. I don’t want to give away the whole book, so I won’t answer any of those questions. It kept me guessing and I think the narrator really added to that experience. One of my guesses was correct. Read it and discover it for yourself!

You can read Like Me, by Hayley Phelan as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription, or buy it for a couple bucks. This was one of Amazon’s First Reads earlier this year.

I read a book: What Flies Want, by Emily Perez

There are certain things I look for when browsing NetGalley. First and foremost, I look for books I want to read. I mostly request horror and poetry because those are two genres that I am always in the mood to read. And I do judge books by their covers. Authors should not underestimate the value of great cover art. Something that I don’t necessarily look for but always catches my attention is Latino authors, particularly if they write about border life and bicultural life experience because that is something to which I can relate. And she grew up in my neck of the woods. Naturally I requested Emily Perez’s Iowa Poetry Prize winning book, What Flies Want.

Perez tackles a lot of familiar issues in her way, but it’s not hitting the mark. Perhaps I am desensitized to some of those shared experiences. The formatting made it somewhat difficult to read. Every poem is stylistically different. Some read like rants, others like run-on sentences that leave me breathless. The whole collection seems disjointed.

But there are some that stand out, like How I Learned to Be a Girl. It’s not even really the poem that stands out, it’s the feelings that it evokes. I think of the time I told an ex that he frightened me. He laughed at me, declaring that it couldn’t possibly be true, but he backed off. We learn to tiptoe around the landmines.

If the beast is unpredictable you must traverse
in postures of submission. Easier to crawl
with your face down toward the earth, nape
exposed, expecting to be struck, which may draw
cold contempt, at best compassion. Fragility may
inspire a desire to protect. I learned young to dance
those careful steps around the unexploded mines
where ground was not yet gutted.

How I Learned to Be a Girl

Then there are poems like Yes, All Women which expresses sentiments of which most women are familiar. The reader knows what it’s about despite the vagueness of the words. Maybe that’s intentional. It’s that thing we all understand but haven’t really talked openly about until recently. #MeToo, anyone?

My favorite is probably Correccion/Correction. I found I could relate to this one more than any others in the book. My mother is German and my father is Mexican American. They also chose names for us that sound good in multiple languages, though fortunately they did not decide to call us by middle names. I can’t imagine my life as Irene! I feel like I have probably spent more of my life in the RGV though, so while my experience does not match the author’s, I do understand what she was saying.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars for me. It’s certainly not bad, but I’m not seeing the groundbreaking revelations that other reviews claim are there. This is the type of poetry that makes me feel like maybe my reading comprehension skills aren’t quite as sharp as I think they are.

Big thanks to Emily Perez, University Of Iowa Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book wasn’t for me, but it might be for you! Check it out. You can buy What Flies Want, by Emily Perez on Amazon and other major booksellers.

I read a book: The Creeper, by A.M. Shine

Picture borrowed (stolen) from the author’s website.

Generally my tastes in horror lean toward monsters, both supernatural monsters like zombies and real world monsters like, well, humans. I love my zombies and I love me some extreme horror and splatterpunk. Give me all the gore!

However, every once in a while I pick up a book or one by an author I’ve seen highly recommended in one of the many bookish online communities that I follow. Something thematically different than my usual favorites. A.M. Shine is one such author. You may recognize him from his earlier work, The Watchers, which is also on my staggeringly long TBR.

This one took me a minute to get into, as it is somewhat of a slow burner and I tend to prefer a faster pace. But much like that children’s tale of the tortoise and the rabbit, slow and steady wins the race. This is the story of a pair of researchers, Ben and Chloe, who are hired by an old eccentric to visit the village from which the superstition of a monster called the creeper originates. They make the trip and are warned off, but allowed to stay for one day on the condition that they conclude interviews by dark and leave the following morning. Ben makes an earnest attempt at learning the origins of the story from the village folk and feels like he’s failed due to the villagers’ unwillingness to talk, until he and Chloe are visited by a child as they’re getting ready to settle in for the night before leaving in the morning.

The author was really good about including little details, both about the legend and events as they are happening, to tie everything together. He left no big glaring loose ends. And if you’re a skeptic like Ben and myself, the ending and epilogue are quite satisfying. My one gripe is that maybe the build up was a bit too slow burning. There were some slightly creepy things early on, but it didn’t get truly terrifying for Ben and Chloe until about halfway through the book. By then I was definitely on the edge of my seat, right up until we get to the twist. And at that point, the reader is resigned to their fate same as Ben is resigned to his.

Solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Before the twist, it would have been one star lower. It is well written, but there are some things my brain just isn’t frightened by. So the ending was pretty satisfying. Was it scary? I didn’t think so. But it was suspenseful and had lots of creepy parts that kept me engaged and rooting for the unlucky researchers. Highly recommend adding it to your spooky season reading list.

Big thanks to A.M. Shine, Head of Zeus, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy The Creeper, by A.M. Shine on Amazon for a couple bucks, or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young

The Magpie Coffin is an unrelenting tale of revenge, with precise brutality and extreme violence – the first in the Splatter Western series from Death’s Head Press.

My first experience with the splatter western genre was a book called Bloodletting, by J.R. Curtis. I thought it was great and decided that I needed more of the author and more splatter western in my life. It’s been a minute since I read that book though, and was finally able to pencil in another splatter western by making it one of the Cool Ghouls Book Club selections. My ever growing unending TBR sometimes demands that I do this to push some books to the top of that list. Cool Ghouls is currently doing a series of 2022 Splatterpunk Award winners. Enter The Magpie Coffin, by Wile. E. Young, winner of Best Novel in 2021.

As I often do, I judged this book by its cover. That amazing cover art helps set the stage for me. It gives off old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western vibes that only got stronger as I read. I imagined Salem Covington carrying himself like every old west Clint Eastwood character, with his outlaw hat tilted low, hiding his trademark snarl and stony gaze. When I was a kid, we had one television in the house and Dad’s beloved copy of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on 2 VHS tapes. I remember him putting it on fairly often, much to my siblings and my chagrin. Even now, old westerns are common background noise in my home. Of course now I love those old movies. And while it might be a weird thing to say about a splatter book, it was giving me all the feels. I was a kid again, watching Clint Eastwood take bloody vengeance on the people who’d tortured and killed his mentor. Covington uses a combination of black magic and his special Gun, which is capitalized to emphasize the fact that it’s not a regular gun. It speaks to him, reminds him of how many souls he owes, and encourages him to kill.

There are some things that I felt were lacking in explanation. Maybe I missed it. That happens. But I never really understood how Covington got into his deal in the first place. Who was the coffin maker? There were mentions of souls owed. But to who? Why? How? We know that he is unkillable by all guns except the one he carries and the one that used to belong to his brother. He learned the way of the People from his shaman teacher, Dead Bear, and there are mentions of how he perverted the teachings to suit him. He picked up other black magic from other teachers. There are questions, but the story flows and wraps up in a way that doesn’t require answers. I’m left wanting more. It has all of the fast sharp brutality I love in a good spatter novel with an old western flair.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. I want more Wile E. Young. I want more splatter western. This was a great start for Death’s Head Press‘s Splatter Western series and I will be reading more of them.

You can get The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young on Amazon, Godless, or directly from Death’s Head Press.

Love letter to Megadeth

The sweet smell of rosies, a pocketful of posies
You can’t mask the fragrance of death in their beds
There’s typhus in the air, and ashes everywhere
Amongst the sick, the dying, and the dead

I love Megadeth.

There. Got that out of the way. I love Megadeth.

Megadeth released a new album, The Sick, the Dying…& the DEAD on September 2. I listened to each single as the band released them and honestly loved them all. Yes, even the one with the Ice-T cameo. Some people think that was a weird choice, but I dig it. Ice-T has his place in metal and I thought the cameo was a cool addition. I listened to it twice in full back to back and twice more over the course of the last week. I’m listening to it as I write this post.

I’ve seen some harsh critique of some of the lyrics, but to that I have to say it’s Megadeth. If you’re looking for poetry, you’re in the wrong place. They have their share of songs with strong meaningful lyrics and plenty with silly lyrics without much depth.

A good chunk of it is reminiscent of old Megadeth, which I love. As soon as I heard Dave whispering his version of a nursery rhyme, I knew my kid would love it as well. She loves all the ones where Dave has conversations with himself (hello me, it’s me again). I have shared my love of metal and Megadeth with my kid all her life. The first song I ever sang to her was Use the Man, a song that converts to lullaby with surprising ease. While Megadeth has been in my rotation for as long as I’ve been aware of their music, I was listening to a ton of Megadeth when the remasters were released while I was pregnant in 2004. Naturally, those were the only songs I could think of when I had the impulse to sing to my newborn in 2005. She grew up listening to my favorite music and regularly chooses Megadeth when we’re listening together in the car.

Is it the best Megadeth album? Nah. But it is really good. The Squid agreed with my assessment, but she thinks Dave sounds old (Happy birthday, Dave!). I thought he sounds damn good all things considered. Dude is 61, had throat cancer, went through chemo and all that and kicked cancer’s ass. If he doesn’t sound like he did 30 years ago, that’s okay. He still sounds like Dave Mustaine and Megadeth still sounds like Megadeth. Dave’s vocals are great and the riffage is amazing, as usual. CDs and vinyl sold everywhere, though I did look at my favorite Target because there’s bonus material in the Target version, but they didn’t have it in stock. This is the first time I’ve thought about buying a CD in ages. Anyway, if you like Megadeth, check it out. The entire album is on their YouTube channel.

Bring out your deeeee—aadddd!

I read a book: Little Astronaut, by J. Hope Stein

I have had this ARC for longer than I care to admit. I’d read a couple disappointing books of poetry and decided to put this one aside a while. Now that I’m reading it, I wish I had dug in sooner.

This is a collection of poetry about the experience of being a new mother. Generally I don’t like to read motherhood themed books because of my own complicated feelings and experiences. In a lot of ways, this is a collection of more of the same old thing. New mom doesn’t get enough sleep. Motherhood becomes identity. Partner has different expectations of parenthood. Strangers bombard you with unsolicited advice. Breastfeeding.

The space theme gives it a fresh feel. There are space metaphors sprinkled throughout that sort of tie the whole thing together. Yes, it’s a new mom venting about the usual new mom experiences. Some of the poems blend together, a result of their sameness. There is some repetition, but it flows from one space metaphor to another on the inertia from the strong prologue and titular poem.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. A more sentimental person would probably rate it higher, but like I said, I have complicated feelings on the subject matter. This was a good read though.

Big thanks to J. Hope Stein, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Little Astronaut on Amazon and read it beginning on September 20, 2022. And according to the author’s website, there’s a little something extra in it for you if you pre-order! I love when authors do things like that.

I read a book: Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard

I spent some time browsing the poetry section of NetGalley on my break this morning. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I admit I am more likely to click a title with interesting titles and cover art. Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard has both of these elements.

While the description is a bit vague, the poetry itself is not. Hubbard employs elements of modern poetry that I enjoy; poems are short and straight to the point without a ton of flowery language. While it does not tell you directly how you’re supposed to feel, it is written in accessible language without obscure references.

Proof of Life had me laughing unexpectedly. I found myself rereading it and smiling to myself. It reminded me of the conversational poetry of Justin Grimbol in a way. I really like Justin Grimbol. This poem was the only one reminiscent of Grimbol though.

Despite its wordy title and having been completed over the course of 10 years, this book clocks in at a slight 68 pages. Don’t confuse brevity with value though. There are some real gems in this small volume. This verse from In a Time Lapse 2 is one of my favorites.

A solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Big thanks to Wayne David Hubbard, Atmosphere Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe on Amazon and read it beginning on October 8, 2022.